Diary

I have always thought of genteel Harrogate as the Eastbourne of the North, on account of its popularity with pensioners, low crime rate and the incomparable Betty's Tea Rooms. Betty may have to start adding green-leaf tea to the menu, however, because it seems the Japanese are moving in.

Bob O'Neil, mayor of Harrogate, has been courted by a delegation from Kyushu to set up a European centre for martial arts - and he is seriously considering it. "I've even been over there to discuss it with them," he explains, "and I was very impressed. I was able to set up all sorts of joint business ventures. Everybody seemed to be talking about Harrogate."

The venture, which Mr O'Neil says is 99 per cent likely to go ahead, will be named the "Centre for Excellence" and will be Europe's first permanent martial arts forum. "It is for all types and levels," says Mr O'Neil, adding that, at 49, he is quite interested in having a go himself.

What on earth was it that made the Japanese want to pursue aikido in Yorkshire? "Oh," replies Mr O'Neil airily, "because of the gardens, the hot springs, the friendly Yorkshire people - in fact, they tell me it reminds them of Japan."

Really? A bottle of sake to the person who can send me a photograph illustrating the resemblance.

David Lodge is clearly fond of the Groucho Club, Soho's haunt for media types and luvvies in London. It was here that he launched his new novel, Therapy, last week. And the intriguingly titled "Groucho's Fast Pan" turns up in the book. This turns out not to be something out of Delia Smith's National Lottery Cookbook, but a club mannerism, which I was honoured to have vigorously demonstrated by the author himself.

"This," explained Mr Lodge, "is what happens when you are sitting having dinner upstairs at the back and you want to check if anyone famous is also in the dining room. You roar uproariously at something your dinner companion has said (regardless of whether it is actually funny); throw your head back, holding your glass out, and roll your eyes slowly around the room under half-lowered lids." He then waved his wine glass and rolled his eyeballs, producing a competent imitation of a tipsy frog. "You shouldn't take it as an insult," he continued when upright again, "everybody here does it.''

I was relieved that in our ensuing five-minute conversation on modern literature he did not do any repeat fast-panning, though he did at one point take a long, slow look round the room. For this I forgave him. "My book is not autobiographical," he had been explaining, "because although the protagonist, like myself, suffers from depression, things start to happen to him that have not happened to me. For one, his wife leaves him."

Pause. Long, sober, anxious pan. "My wife," said Mr Lodge, "I hope, is here somewhere."

Another launch, another evening at Groucho's, but this time hosted by one far too well-mannered to practise the Fast Pan: Sir Rhodes Boyson MP, former education secretary. All concentration and charm, Sir Rhodes was promoting an educational tool for GCSE and A-level students: tapes of classic literature for those who find it easier to pick things up by ear than by reading. "I myself," he said, "was always an aural man. I remember reciting out loud the whole of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One and Henry V for my A-levels. But I only realised just how much I relied on my hearing when I became headmaster of a school in Highbury, north London. I could tell by their footsteps which of the staff or pupils was about to enter my office."

He chuckled. "I would seriously put them out by bellowing their surname before they'd even knocked."

I am glad to report a happy ending to the fiasco which began last weekend when the commercials director Tony Kaye (renowned for his BA ads) lowered a 20ft by 12ft photograph of punters at the Eve Klein exhibition on to the forecourt of the South Bank's Hayward Gallery, where the exhibition has been on display. Mr Kaye described the photograph as "a gift" but the Hayward's security guards were not so sure: they wanted rid of the unwelcome giant object. Thankfully, after a week's deliberation, the gallery has decided to let the picture stay - and has even given it a plaque.

"Well, since it was a picture of the exhibition - or, at least, a picture of people waiting for exhibition lecturers to arrive - we felt that it had a certain relevance," explains a spokeman, adding that Mr Kaye "must have spent at least £1,000 getting it blown up".

Mr Kaye is delighted. He is experimenting with two new artistic movements, which he has dubbed "exhibitionism" (making an exhibition out of someone else's exhibition) and "soap art" (the theory of one thing leading to another). In deference to both he will next week move the work to another artistic venue in London. Art-lovers should keep an eye on a small gallery with watery associations.

Breaking the mould of fragrant Tory wives is Anita Townsend, wife of Cyril, the Tory MP for Bexleyheath. Yesterday, Mrs Townsend was to be found hanging an exhibition of her paintings that starts tonight at the Marina Henderson Gallery in Chelsea. Prices range from £150 to £400. Not that she will pocket the proceeds: all the money is going to charity. And neither is this a new career direction in anticipation of her spouse's possible joblessness within a couple of years; Mrs Townsend was a serious artist before she was a Tory wife.

She is delighted to be resuming her career now that the children are away at school. "I was always very serious about it when I first met Cyril," she says. He, she laughs, does not have any artistic imagination at all - nor, it seems, much romantic imagination, judging by their first date in the Seventies. "He took me to see Jaws," she sighs nostalgically.

"Avoid complacency," was Tony Blair's wise caution after his sweeping victory in last week's elections. Which explains, no doubt, why the Labour Party is busy offering incentives to members who can persuade as many as three more people to join. Heroic enrollers win the right to lunch with Mr Blair. Or rather, to be strictly accurate, the right to enter the prize draw of heroic enrollers to have lunch with Mr Blair. One lunch, for one winner. Avoid complacency, Tony - and, I am pleased to see, profligacy.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style